The city of Tampa Florida wants businesses to stop asking about criminal records. The City of Tampa may soon introduce “ban-the-box” type legislation to assist individuals with former criminal records in finding work. Under plans that the Tampa City Council are currently discussing, the city is considering creating a new system to encourage contractors for the city government not to ask applicants if they have been arrested. Since 2013, the city has already possessed a ban-the-box policy for its own hires but will now expand.
Under a proposal from City Councilman Luis Viera, the city is drafting a new ordinance that would create a points system under which contractors would be evaluated. This would offer a greater number of points for contractors that hire those who have served prison sentences and do not ask candidates about criminal history.
While meeting to discuss the proposed legislation, several city council members expressed their support for such legislation. In addition, members of the committee agreed on the importance of providing those who are released from prison with an opportunity to acquire a job and be productive members of society.
According to the Department of Justice, more than 10,000 prisoners are released every week from state and federal prisons, and more than two-thirds will be arrested within the following three years after their release. Viera and other members of the city council expressed hopes that these changes may be able to reduce reoffending among these recently released populations and help grow the city’s economy. In order to do this, Viera is also asking the city to work with Hillsborough County and put $150,000 in funding toward launching an apprenticeship program for returnees.
The changes have also been supported by the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce as well. According to the Vice President of Advocacy, Nicholas Glover, for the organization, “This is an opportunity for us to allow businesses to do well and to do some good at the same time.”
Supporting job training for these ex-prisoners could hold significant benefits for both the returnees and the community. According to a study by the Prison Policy Institute, which surveyed approximately five million formerly incarcerated individuals in the United States, former prisoners face an unemployment rate of over 27%, which is far higher than the unemployment rate for the remaining population at any time in the nation’s history.
The city’s ban-the-box legislation is currently still being drafted by the city council. However, it is currently expected to be ready for a vote by the Tampa Bay city council in mid-July.
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